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November 20, 2001


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has announced that the resident and fellow physicians employed by Advocate-Lutheran General Hospital (Hospital) in Park Ridge, Illinois, won another round in their effort to designate Physicians for Responsible Negotiation (PRN), the labor organization formed by the American Medical Association, as their collective bargaining representative. In a decision delivered to PRN on November 20, 2001, the NLRB re-affirmed its previous holding that the appropriate unit for collective bargaining includes all residents and fellows employed by the Hospital and does not include any residents who rotate through the Hospital from other programs. The NLRB decision also found that residents who may give some direction to hospital staff and other residents are not "supervisors" under the law and are therefore eligible to collectively bargain.

Susan Adelman, MD, President of PRN, commended the physicians on their professionalism and stamina throughout this long process: "PRN is extremely impressed with these young physicians' dedication to their patients, their education, and their ethics. The Hospital put extreme pressure on these doctors, but the doctors always put their concern for their patients first. Physician collective bargaining is, at its core, always about patient care and patients rights. When big companies who employ physicians, like Advocate, finally learn that, they'll have a different response to physician collective bargaining." Dr. Adelman added: "PRN is particularly appreciative of the senior residents who initiated this NLRB election, but understood that the principal beneficiaries of their efforts would be the young doctors who come to Lutheran General Hospital for training in years to come."

On August 16, 2000, the residents and fellows filed their petition requesting an election to vote whether they wished to be represented by PRN for purposes of collective bargaining. The Hospital opposed the physicians' exercise of their collective bargaining rights, advancing their principal argument that all of the residents and fellows were students, not employees, and therefore not entitled to collective bargaining rights.

The Chicago Regional Office of the NLRB ruled for the residents and fellows and against the Hospital on every issue in a decision issued November 7, 2000. The Hospital appealed that decision to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. On appeal, the NLRB dismissed the Hospital's argument that the residents and fellows were mere students, ineligible for collective bargaining, but agreed to further review the question whether certain chief residents were "supervisors" and whether certain "rotating" residents from other hospitals should be included in the bargaining unit. After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Kentucky River Community Care v. NLRB in late May 2001, the NLRB remanded the Advocate-Lutheran General case for further evidence on these two issues. The remand hearing was held on September 7, 2001.

In the most recent decision, the Chicago Regional Office of the NLRB again ruled in favor of the residents and fellows and against the Hospital on every issue. The Hospital has until November 29, 2001, to file a request for review of this decision by the full NLRB.

The NLRB opened the door for resident and fellow physician collective bargaining in late 1999 in a case involving the residents and fellows at Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts. The Lutheran General physicians are the first residents and fellows in the United States to organize themselves under the new law set forth in that case.

For more information, please contact:
Robert J. Mills

To see the full text of the NLRB decision, click here.

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